How to Get Published

The others thought I was the most appropriate person to write an entry about getting published by Adlard Coles, not only because I am the first point of contact for unsolicited manuscripts, but because I’m also an Adlard Coles author. In fact, next January sees the publication of my third book with Adlard Coles – Final Voyage: The world’s worst maritime disasters.

Unlike many publishers Adlard Coles will happily consider unsolicited book proposals. However, before you rush to the post office to send us the log of your fortnight’s cruise off the Gironde, here are some things to consider:

Has your book got a strong hook? Can you sum it up in a single sentence? This isn’t about dumbing down, it’s about grabbing people’s attention. Publishers receive dozens (if not hundreds!) of book ideas every week, but they only publish a handful of new books each month. Readers have an even harder time – they have millions of books to choose from! But grab their attention with one sentence and there’s every chance they’ll want to read the next 5,000 too.

Use your single sentence to sum up what is unique about your book and why a reader will want to pick it up, what your book offers (whether it’s practical advice or an absorbing tale) that no others do. For example, one of our most successful books, Left for Dead by Nick Ward, could be summed up as: The true story of a teenage competitor in the disastrous 1979 Fastnet Race who was knocked unconscious on a sinking yacht and awoke to found his crewmates had fled in the liferaft without him.

How big is the potential readership for your book? Adlard Coles is the largest nautical publisher in the world, but nautical publishing is still a pretty specialist niche. We don’t expect to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of every book, but we need to convince our sales and marketing teams that there are enough people out there to make the investment of producing the book worthwhile.

Publishing is a business like any other and unfortunately sometimes we have to reject books that are wonderfully written simply because we don’t think we could sell enough copies to cover the costs of publication.

We reject a lot of sailing narratives that fit into two categories: memoirs of careers in the merchant navy half a century ago, and what we call ‘my holiday on the water’-type books. The market for the former is very small (too small for us) and the market for the latter is even smaller. Please appreciate that what might have been a fun, exciting, fascinating trip for you doesn’t necessarily make for a fun, exciting or fascinating book. Remember: what’s your hook?

So, having read this, do you think you’ve got a book for us? We’re particularly keen on receiving proposals for practical guides about any and all aspects of boating, as well as strong narratives (non-fiction only please). If you think we might be interested in your book please send us 2–3 chapters, along with a summary of the whole book and some information about yourself to

Last year Justin Ruthven-Tyers did just this, and this year we published his book Phoenix from the Ashes. Could your book be next?

20 thoughts on “How to Get Published

  1. We left Shediac, New Brunswick, Canada and ended after 8+ years in Australia on our sailboat. I have a narrative type log separated into Caribbean and the other the Pacific. Is this the sort of thing you are interested in. Do I interpret your information that you take submissions via email.

  2. So – to clarify – you accept unagented submissions, but do you recommend finding an agent as a beneficial first step to submitting? Or is the industry niche enough that agents are not the standard for new writers? Interested in finding a home for two practical how-tos: one racing, one cruising.

  3. Hello there. I have written a book on my 21 year search to solve the worlds great mystery of the sea, the loss of the SS Waratah. My book chronicles the search for the ill-fated ship between 1909 and 2004. The disappearance of the ship is well known and written about, but now I tell my side of the story.


  4. i have a story of a school teacher who left the classroom in frustration to work two years aboard an ICW tug. Through the experience an entire way of life was revealed. I have finished the story and would like to submit it to you. Do you have a snail mail Address?

  5. Would this completed manuscript be of interest? “Windsong”. A nautical adventure memoir of finding an abandoned 100-year-old boat on a deserted beach in West Africa and the adventures that followed. With only $2.38 and a whole lot of “I want a boat”, I embarked on a dream. Months of hardship, suffering, and good luck later, my fantasy became a floating reality filled with wonderful times and hair-raising experiences. Young, inexperienced, and full of illusions tropical storms, a boat full of water, and crossing the Atlantic alone without a functioning rudder lay in my future.
    This story targets seasoned sailors, dreamers, and
    armchair adventurers of all ages.

    • Thank you Jonathan. I sent along a packet to the email address you provided under the subject line “Windsong – A true nautical adventure by Shane Granger”. Without a specific name, I hope it does not become lost in the shuffle.

  6. Hi Jonathan!

    Only now did I stumble across your blog post about querying Adlard Coles directly about well-written and compelling nautical stories. Are you still working in acquisitions for Adlard Coles and are you still the first contact for unsolicited manuscripts?

    I recently finished my sailing memoir and would love to pitch it to you. This tumultuous ride of love and adventure takes you on a modern nomad’s journey through tropical waters and transports you to the good, the bad, and the paradise lost. It’s a love story with twists and turns as much as a behind-the-scenes look of a life less ordinary, exploring the world and dealing with unexpected tragedies.

  7. Would a humours salty frolick onboard Reclaimer, a Booster Retrieval Systems ship, sweeping up spent Cape Canaveral launched N.A.S.A. rocket boosters in the Caribbean Sea, with those various, glorious and luminous Islands as a backdrop, hot to trot, frenzied plot playground for Her delightful, devoted and sometimes demented crew be of interest?

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